Mike Freund's musical odyssey, rooted in the heart of New Jersey, unfolds like a symphony, echoing with tales of trials and triumphs. His inaugural paying gig encountered discord in the form of a car crash, leading to an unexpected night in the ER. Unfazed by setbacks, Freund pressed on, only to confront a burglary that stripped him of his equipment at the inception of his recording journey. Yet, fate guided him to the lively enclave of Charleston, South Carolina, where he discovered his true rhythm. Emerging from adversity, Freund's debut solo album, Toe the Line, resonated with bloggers, followed by the well-received And Now You Know, In Between, Vol. 1 (Acoustic), and Twenty Twenty. Freund is amassing views, fans, and love, dispelling any notion of misfortune. Shaped by influences spanning from The Allman Brothers Band to Guns and Roses, Freund's guitar journey commenced at the age of 12, nurtured by his father, a pianist in the Admiral's Band for America’s Navy. High school became a pivotal chapter as Freund embraced songwriting seriously, recognizing the profound impact of mentors and the diverse musical influences that sculpted his distinctive sound. His latest release, "Kicking Dirt," unveiled earlier this month, delves into themes of strength and determination, offering a compelling glimpse into Freund's evolving musical narrative. In an exclusive interview, Stef catches up with Mike to delve into the nuances of his latest release and the artistic journey.
1. SJ: Hi Mike, and thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your musical journey and latest release! You have over 30 years of musical experience both on stage and in a recording studio. How did you first get inspired to play and make your own music? Who continues to be your biggest influence/s?
MF: If I’m being honest, It was probably Michael Jackson that first inspired me. I was a kid when MTV first aired and I remember being so excited when I saw the Beat It video. But for me, even then, it wasn't about being an entertainer like MJ, it was more about the music. I wanted to make music. As a teenager, I kept a journal of poems that read like song lyrics. I was lucky enough to have guitar lessons. Eventually, I put those two things together and started gigging at 15 years old. Music is my lifestyle. I can’t walk past a guitar and not pick it up. Today, for me, it’s all about players like Warren Haynes, and Bands like The Rivals Sons. I believe in musical instruments and live performances.
2. SJ: You’ve been releasing solo music since 2015. What do you think has changed or evolved in what your is today in your music, compared to what it was almost ten years ago?
MF: Well, with time comes experience. I first worked in a studio when I was 20 years old. I was very young, and wet behind the ears. My songs were immature. As I grew, I learned and lived. Which allowed for better lyrics and songs in general. I don’t really care for the music I put out ten years ago. I’ve learned so much since then. Every time I’m in a recording studio I learn something new. Whether it’s a mic placement or a breathing technique when trying to sing. I can hear the difference between my old material and my new material. I’d laugh when I heard one of my hero”s say in an interview about their latest release or their new album, they’d always say something like “This is the best music I’ve ever put out” but I get it now. I hope my new material is better than my previous stuff, otherwise, I’m not learning or progressing.
3. SJ: Your latest release was the single, “Kicking Dirt.” Can you tell us a little bit about what this song means to you?
MF: I’m proud of this song. I’m not always successful at capturing the sound I hear in my head, but with the song I did. I just really feel a powerful sense of accomplishment with this one. I successfully captured what I set out for with this tune.
4. SJ: What was the creative process like for this song? How was it written and recorded? Do you typically write more independently, or collaborate with other friends and musicians?
MF: This was my first experience with open C tuning.
And because of that, I was able to join together the sound and the imagery I had in mind for this song. I wrote this one Independently. First, I wanted to create something that sounded like a large engine and made you feel slightly frightened. Kind of like the opening to a horror movie. I wanted the feel of a slow drag like you're stuck in the mud. I recorded the demo of the song in my home studio. After sending it out to the band, we took it to Mantis Records in Tyron NC, where I’ve recorded most of my albums. We knocked this one out in one weekend, along with six other songs. I collaborate with the band on timing, tight endings, pauses, and big openings. But I was emotionally attached to this song, so we recorded it almost exactly like the demo.
5. SJ: What is one song you wish Mike Freund wrote?
MF: Carly Simon - You're So Vain.
SJ: What’s next for Mike Freund?
MF: I’m going to continue to write and record as much as possible. I want to put out as much music as I can. They say you're not a songwriter until you’ve written 200 songs, so I’ve got some work to do. I plan on releasing one single every 2 months. I’ve got recordings on hold so I can do just that. The band and I will keep on trucking and focus on playing regional music festivals.
SJ: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk and tell us a little more about your latest single. Looking forward to seeing and hearing what’s next!
Listen to "Kicking Dirt" below!
Written and Arranged by: Mike Freund
Recorded at: MANTIS Records in Tryon North Carolina
Mix, Master, Production: Mike Freund, Mitch Webb
Drums: Jonathon Alcon
Bass: Tad Flecther
Vocals, Guitars: Mike Freund
Organ: Mich Webb